Intergenerational effects of childhood maltreatment: A systematic review of the parenting practices of adult survivors of childhood abuse, neglect, and violence

Carolyn A. Greene, Lauren Haisley, Cara Wallace, Julian D. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A history of maltreatment in childhood may influence adults’ parenting practices, potentially affecting their children. This systematic review examines 97 studies investigating associations of parental childhood victimization with a range of parenting behaviors that may contribute to the intergenerational effects of abuse: abusive parenting, problematic parenting, positive parenting, and positive parental affect. Key findings include: (1) parents who report experiencing physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home during childhood are at increased risk for reporting that they engage in abusive or neglectful parenting; (2) a cumulative effect of maltreatment experiences, such that adults who report experiencing multiple types or repeated instances of victimization are at greatest risk for perpetrating child abuse; (3) associations between reported childhood maltreatment experiences and parents’ problematic role reversal with, rejection of, and withdrawal from their children; (4) indirect effects between reported childhood maltreatment and abusive parenting via adult intimate partner violence; and (5) indirect effects between reported childhood maltreatment and lower levels of positive parenting behaviors and affect via mothers’ mental health. Thus, childhood experiences of maltreatment may alter parents’ ability to avoid negative and utilize positive parenting practices. Limitations of this body of literature include few prospective studies, an overreliance on adults’ self-report of their childhood victimization and current parenting, and little examination of potentially differential associations for mothers and fathers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101891
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Carolyn Greene received funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (Grant K23HD094824 ) which supported the writing of this manuscript. NICHD had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication. No data from the NICHD supported study are included in this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Parenting practices

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review


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